San Martín's bakery is divided into a pastelería, a full-service glass case filled with iced cakes and French patisserie, and a panadería, a Mexican-style setup with racks displaying breads and sweets, plus tongs and baskets for shoppers to help themselves.
The racks are where it's at. Unlike the pastry case, they are continually replenished during the day, keeping everything fresh, crisp and nearly irresistible, with the scent of baking bread and croissants, streusels and empanadas in the air. The racked goods are also surprisingly inexpensive.
Grab some tongs and go exploring. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:
1. Champurradas (10 for $3.99). These traditional, crisp Guatemalan cookies are about the size and thinness of a CD. Lightly sweet and freckled with sesame seeds, they shatter on first bite and may be the best thing ever with a strong coffee or espresso. (And almost as addictive.)
2. Alfajores ($5.99 for a box of about 15 cookies). A delicate version of Argentina's classic dulce de leche sandwich cookie, the tender butter cookies hold a dab of tangy caramel and are covered with a dusting of powdered sugar.
3. Pan Francés ($2.64). The staple loaf of Guatemala, this slab-shaped French bread looks a lot like a set of washboard abs, with each loaf formed into two long, segmented rows. The crumb is less cottony and more substantial than a typical French loaf, with a fresh yeasty aroma.
4. Loroco and cream cheese roll ($1.99). A savory torpedo that's nearly a small sandwich, thanks to a generous slathering of cream cheese and plenty of loroco, the herbaceous green "national flower" of Guatemala.
5. Spinach and cream cheese empanada ($2.99). This scalloped-edged crescent is flakier and more fragile than most hand pies. The filling is "San Martín style," operations manager Luis Daccarett says, with more ground spinach than cheese, making it emerald green and deliciously earthy.